How did you choose your first competition?
Erin Stern: I wanted to do a small figure show close to home so it would be a good experience and good practice.
Nicole Wilkins: I competed for the first time at the end of the year, and there was only one show left! It was a good-sized show, and in the fitness category — when I started I was doing fitness — I was the only entrant, so I won by default!
How scared were you to get onstage?
Erin: Mortified! I am an introvert and a tomboy, so getting onstage in a bikini was frightening.
Nicole: I was nervous, but being a competitive athlete all my life I knew how to deal with the nerves.
What is your gym training like, on season and off?
Erin: Off season I do a lot of track work — explosive drills, sprints, total body conditioning and circuit training. I also do compound lifts with heavy weight. Contest time I switch to detail work — isolation moves, one muscle group per day — and use moderate weight for four to 50 sets of eight to 10 reps.
Nicole: I train heavy all year round, keeping my reps around eight to 15 for three to four sets. I do single bodyparts each day and do cardio all year round five to six days a week for 30 to 45 minutes.
How far out do you start your diet?
Erin: About four to six weeks. I eat four to five meals off season and bump it up to six for contest prep.
Nicole: I eat pretty much the same all year round but start to tighten things up about 14 weeks out.
How important are the details of competition?
Erin: The details are the icing on the cake — they are crucial! The stage lights can be harsh, so it's important to have more hair, false lashes and brighter makeup to look great onstage. The hair extensions are still a mystery to me; I never know what type to wear. I bought the Jessica Simpson faux-hair clip-ins once and ended up looking like a poodle! Also, extra earring backs are good to have. I had a chandelier earring go flying off the stage once. Now I double check accessories and bring extras!
Nicole: The final details can make or break your overall performance. Fitness competitions are like beauty pageants for fit girls. The judges do take beauty, hair makeup and skin tone all into account when scoring.
Finish this sentence: For my first show I wish someone had told me …
Erin: To be comfortable and just be myself. The preparation and hard part was done — the stage was meant to be enjoyed!
Nicole: Not to overeat after the show. I was so full I couldn’t move!
What kind of mental preparation do you do?
Erin: I visualize every day — I go through my walk, poses, comparisons and the finals. I visualize every detail of my physique. I feel the weight of the medal around my neck. It’s important to clearly picture yourself being successful — there’s a much greater chance of it happening if you do!
Nicole: I read a lot of daily positive affirmations. I also surround myself with supportive people and try to enjoy the moment. Backstage I am incredibly quiet. I find a spot, shut my eyes and relax.